Of course I was a big fan of Ian Fleming and Mickey Spillane but it has been some time since I picked up a spy novel. Starting anew with David Atkinson's "Inceptus" was a phenomenal idea. Out and over are the `glorious' days, when spies sat around and sipped martinis in casinos; nobody really believes that anymore, the Great Recession has rolled over us. The more pleasant it is to find a spy novel, which references to the real word and takes it into account.
"Since the world economic crash and the mismanagement of the Tory/ Libdem coalition government in recent years, most westernised countries had suffered considerable down turns in the standards of behaviour and mutual respect that had already been quite flimsy."
Though I somehow miss men standing in phone booths, with raised collars, most often in rainy weather, I so very much appreciated that Atkinson's spies are real people; equipped with guns, and schooled in Ki-Aikido defense technique, but nonetheless real.
A word of warning: I do not spoil and will not retell the plot.
Our main heroes and spies are Patrick Steele, Takuo Sumisu, and Naomi Kobayashi. Patrick had been recruited by the `Gurentai', a sub group of the Japanese 'Yakuza'. Scarred by childhood tragedies, Patrick was happy to join. The mafia style organization operates like Robin Hood's troop. Their goals fit into Patrick's world views, besides that he would be bored being an accountant. Patrick is not a cold-blooded killer, he sees the people around him and adds numbers to the picture:
"If you add to that a shortage of money then luxuries such as cinemas, coffee shops and restaurants were not exactly thriving. I supposed that one of the benefits was more people were growing their own food and sharing expertise with neighbours, a retrograde step backwards to almost medieval times. We hadn't quite returned to using horse transport!"
Patrick also has relationship with Naomi, which seems to have advanced from an ongoing recreational sexual relationship to something `bigger'. This is where the author excels. Opposite to the classic scenario, both of them DON'T KNOW how and if they could unite their professional activities with a possible personal union. It is a real relationship; they working on it. The reader can associate with what is happening. Naomi is not the most beautiful woman on Earth, with tiny golden strapped to her garter belt; she is "delectable". The third man, Takuo, is older and wiser, he guides and advises, besides being a killing machine, whenever he wants to. Even more importantly, "this little guy could obviously read minds".
The story begins with Patrick chasing two men, though he is not entirely sure of all backgrounds and associations. It leads the reader from Ireland to France, then briefly to Japan, from there to the United States, and back to England. The enemy turns out to be an old acquaintance. Atkinson guides us through the plot with poignant statements and questions:
"I really was alone even in this place full of people."
"Obviously I'd lost Kuklinski for now as he'd found himself transport. That in itself was significant. Where had he found a friend so quickly? Who were his contacts? What was he up to?"
"... irrespective of how hard they tried, the CIA never quite got the dress code correct. Rather like brothers of the Latter Day Saints, the two CIA men arrived together, were too smartly dressed, and sported similar crew cuts. Amazing!"
On a personal side note I enjoyed finding out that the novel plays out in locations, which I visited in the past: "Killarney is the county town of County Kerry, on the shores of Lough Leane in the Killarney National Park and as such is a centre of tourism. The place was littered with hotels, bed and breakfast spots and pubs..." Little did I guess when I bicycled the Ring of Kerry 25 years ago, that I would revisit in mind when reading this very `cool' spy novel.
The novel's end is an unexpected surprise.
Highly recommended to readers, who enjoy authentic books rather than superficial exaggerations.